Gmail Fraudsters Preying On Coronavirus Fears

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Written By Hasan Rezazadeh

Hackers have stepped up their efforts to snatch personal data by sending out millions of emails to Google’s Gmail users.

The number of phishing emails blocked by Gmail has soared by almost a fifth during the coronavirus crisis – adding 18 million messages a day to the usual tally of 100 million.

The service also sees more than 240 million spam emails a day.

Google says sophisticated security and tracking techniques stop 99.9% of these messages getting through.

Most of the hackers try to trick email recipients into revealing their personal data by offering financial incentives and by preying on fears of catching coronavirus.

Spam and phishing attempts soar

Many pose as official communications from the World Health Organisation, governments or official agencies.

The fraudsters sending the messages want to elicit donations or infect computers and smartphones with malware.

Messages Google suspects of being spam or phishing attempts are labelled with a red banner at the start of the email and carry the warning ‘This message seems dangerous’

In a blog, Google Gmail security manager Neil Kumaran advises users to carry out a security check to make sure their accounts have not been compromised and to avoid downloading files that do not come from a recognised source.

He also suggests users do not click on links or provide log in information to web sites that may be fraudsters posing as official information sources.

Avoiding the threat

“Security is at the top of the priority list, and phishing is still one of the most effective methods that attackers use to compromise accounts and gain access to company data and resources. In fact, bad actors are creating new attacks and scams every day that attempt to take advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.,” said Kumaran.

“It’s our job to constantly stay ahead of these threats to help you protect your organization. In February, we talked about a new generation of document malware scanners that rely on deep learning to improve our detection capabilities across over 300 billion attachments we scan for malware every week. These capabilities help us maintain a high rate of detection even though 63% of the malicious docs blocked by Gmail are different from day to day.

“To further help you defend against these attacks, today we’re highlighting some examples of COVID-19-related phishing and malware threats we’re blocking in Gmail, sharing steps for admins to effectively deal with them, and detailing best practices for users to avoid threats.”